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Yankees History: Bobby Murcer and the most consequential cycle

Many cycles come in blowouts, but the Yankees needed pretty much every hit of Bobby Murcer’s from 1972.

New York Yankees

If you look back through the games in which a Yankees player has hit for a cycle, most of them have ended up blowout wins for the Bombers. If one player on his own produces a single, double, triple, and home run, then you’re already guaranteed a minimum of one run, and have likely been set up in a pretty good position a couple other times. Add in that there are eight other players in the lineup, all facing a pitching staff that has given up a cycle, and the recipe is there for most games featuring a cycle to end in a blowout.

However, it’s not a 100 percent correlation. There’s even two games featuring a Yankee cycle that have ended in a loss. There are also a few where the cycle-clinching hit ended up being a massive moment in the context of the game. One of those came during Bobby Murcer’s cycle on August 29, 1972.

The Yankees and Rangers were set to face off in a doubleheader on August 29, 1972, making up a rained out game from June. Murcer would be the protagonist for this game, and he was slotted into the third spot in the lineup, but struck out in his first at-bat in the first inning.

Three innings later, with the Yankees trailing 1-0, Murcer started a Yankee rally, hitting a one-out triple. Roy White immediately followed that with a single, tying things up. The Yankees went on to score another run in the inning and took a 2-1 lead. Murcer followed that up with a double in the fifth, but that time no one was able to bring him home. Texas would battle back with five more runs over the sixth and seventh innings, knocking around Yankees’ starter Steve Kline.

In the seventh, the Yankees’ started the frame with three straight hits. Horace Clark and Thurman Munson each plated a run and brought Murcer to the plate. He continued his big day with a single, which kept things moving and moved Munson into scoring position. Eventually, Munson would come around to score, getting New York within a run.

The Yankees missed out on a seemingly golden chance in the eighth as they were unable to score Gene Michael after his lead-off single with the top of the lineup soon due up. That left the score still at 6-5 as the game went into the bottom of the ninth.

Leading off the ninth was none other that Murcer. While the fact that he was a home run away from the cycle was probably somewhere in the back of his mind, the fact that the Yankees were only down a run was more pressing. Luckily, he helped both those problems with one swing. Murcer led off the ninth with a home run, completing his cycling and tying the game at the same time.

The game went into extra innings, and in the 10th, things worked back around to Murcer in the lineup. Due up fifth in the lineup, Murcer came to the plate with two on and two outs. Would he cap off his already incredible day with a walk-off? Well, not quite, but he did add to the hilarity of his line in the box score. The Rangers opted to intentionally walk him, giving Murcer another different way that he had reached base in the game. Including Murcer, there are five Yankees cycles where the hitter also reached base on a walk in the game. The Yankees ended up getting their win in the 10th, but it didn’t involve Murcer. Johnny Callison hit a walk-off single after Ron Blomberg and Bernie Allen had both reach base on a walk.

According to Win Probability Added, Murcer’s cycle was the most influential on the result of an actual game. His +0.722 WPA is the highest of any Yankee in such a game, leading Tony Fernández’s +0.581 from a 1995 game, which is actually one the aforementioned losses. There’s one other game that may come somewhat close to it, and possibly surpass it. However, the play-by-play data for that game, and in turn, the WPA, is unknown. The other contender is when Bob Meusel completed his cycle in a 1921 game with a go-ahead triple that drove home two runs in the top of the ninth inning in a 6-5 Yankees win. Considering that he drove in four of the Yankees’ six runs, including the two biggest, that one seems like it would have a higher WPA, but it’s unknown at least as of right now.

It stands to reason that most cycles would come it blowouts, but it would be fun if the next Yankee one actually included a game-changing hit.


New York Times, August 30, 1972

Data courtesy of Baseball Reference Stathead